She’s been wanting to open a Knolla’s Pizza in downtown Wichita since she opened her east-side pizzeria in 2005.
But either it didn’t feel like the right time, or she just couldn’t find the right place.
Recently, though, everything gelled, and next month, Darinda Knolla — daughter of Knolla’s founder Pat Knolla — will open the local pizza chain’s first downtown spot. She’s aiming for an April 30 opening.
She’s partnered with her sister, Raelene, and is taking over the restaurant space on the southwest corner of Douglas and Main that Quizno’s vacated in September.
The spot just feels right, Darinda said, and she has a feeling her late father, who died in 2015 at age 73, would agree.
“As soon as we walked in, I said, ‘This is the spot,’” said Darinda, whose father called her “Pin.” “It was almost like I could hear him say, ‘Pin, this is the one.’ It just kind of solidified it.”
The downtown Knolla’s will offer the same pizzas, both whole and by the slice, and sandwiches that the other Wichita Knolla’s are known for, but downtown will have a few extras meant to lure nearby workers and residents.
Since there aren’t many breakfast options in that part of downtown, the new Knolla’s will open early and serve breakfast pizzas, cinnamon rolls, smoothies, pastries and more. It’ll also have soup and salad options at lunch and dinner.
Darinda and her crew will start working on the space as soon as this weekend, she said. They’re planning to take down a half wall that used to house a drink station, replace carpet and open up the kitchen area.
She and her sister also plan to commemorate their father in the new restaurant. They’ll hang up lots of old pictures of Pat Knolla, and they’re going to have one of his old work shirts framed in a shadow box.
“Most people who have been in this town for a long time think of my dad when they think of Knolla’s,” she said. “We want this to be a tribute to him.”
Tentative hours for the downtown Knolla’s will be 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It will offer catering, delivery and will serve beer.
It feels like the right time to move into downtown, Darinda said, because it has become a destination over the past several years and has filled up with residents. Her new shop will be close to the new ballpark, the renovated Naftzger Park and Intrust Bank Arena.
Brett Harris of Landmark Commercial Real Estate handled the deal.
Pat Knolla and his brothers Dan and Tim were working for a Pizza Hut franchise in Florida back in the early 1980s when they decided to quit and open their own place. The first Knolla’s was just outside of Orlando.
Pat relocated to Wichita and opened the Knolla’s at 13th and West. The restaurant continued to expand, and each of Wichita’s four restaurants today is independently owned by Knolla family members. Pat’s widow, Sheri, now runs the 13th and West shop. His brother, Dan and Dan’s wife, Ruth, own the restaurants at Central and Ridge and 37th and Maize. And Darinda has the Central and Rock store.